Online learning, elearning, blended learning – what’s the difference?

by | May 6, 2020 | Uncategorized

Types of learning delivery channels

Like many fields, training and development is full of acronyms and jargon. It’s easy to assume we all have the same understanding and use the same definitions. I have some clients who are new to online learning and often trip up over our terminology. Let me explain a few terms and their definitions so we know we’re talking about the same thing.


This is asynchronous learning. It’s helpful to think, “Asynchronous is completed Alone”. Employees log into a course on their own time from wherever they are. There is no trainer to facilitate learning. Instead, the instructor’s role is embedded in the design through scenarios, feedback, etc. Creating an elearning course requires a different approach to design and is often built using a rapid authoring tool such as:

I have a bias towards the Articulate products because I find they require the least amount of ‘programming’ and are therefore easiest for my clients to use. Email me if you’re curious to learn more.

Virtual training

This is what has become so popular right now in our COVID world! It is synchronous learning that involves a trainer or facilitator hosting a virtual classroom and employees joining at a specific time. It can have different terms. Virtual classroom, eclassroom, and live online are some of the more common. These courses have a facilitator or trainer, so they are similar to traditional face-to-face classroom courses, but can accommodate a geographically dispersed audience. Virtual learning requires a platform where the facilitator and participants can ‘meet.’ Common platforms include:

I’ve designed virtual training for Zoom, Adobe Connect and Webex. 

Blended learning

This is a combination of different delivery channels. It can include virtual training, elearning, and in-person classroom.

The diagram below illustrates part of a learning road map, or curriculum, for a blended program I created for a college in Ontario. It shows a combination of virtual classroom, independent learning, assignments, online discussions, and quizzes.


I create learning solutions that have a measurable impact on performance and support the organization’s objective. This requires a balance between following an established instructional design process starting with a needs assessment and looking for opportunities to be creative and leverage different delivery channels. Understanding terminology and the different options for delivery channels is one of the first steps in designing effective training that results in a change in performance. Another step is evaluating when to use which delivery channel and the pros and cons of each. I have created a quick reference document that I’ve used with clients to help them navigate this process. Let me know if you are wrestling with these decisions and if a conversation with me might help.

Interested in learning more?

Here are some projects where I have designed courses for virtual, elearning and blended delivery.

When you’re ready, here are a few ways I can help you and the employees in your organization:

  • Designing a learning curriculum that incorporates different delivery channels – online, in-person as well as non-learning approaches such as coaching.
  • Designing elearning courses that focus on changing performance and aligning with your business needs.
  • Coaching individual leaders and their teams.

Consider taking this course to redesign an in-person training program for online delivery:

Check out the other services I provide to clients to help them improve employee performance.

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Hannah Brown

I help close the gap between formal training from learning and development and leaders fostering learning on their teams to embed it into their DNA.